Global cooling? That would be good news for the forests

August 12, 2009

Climate change denialists (sorry, Mr. Watts – denialism is what it is) frequently argue that since the peak heat year of 1998, the planet has been cooling, and may be in a long-term trend to a much cooler planet.

Has anyone told the beetles?

Has anyone told the pine bark beetles (Dendroctonus ponderosae) that are devastating North American forests?

Colorado conifers affected by pine bark beetles (brown trees are dead) - image from Chad Crawford,  Homebrewed Christianity

Colorado conifers affected by pine bark beetles (brown trees are dead) - image from Chad Crawford, Homebrewed Christianity

I was interested to find this photo and this post at Homebrewed Christianity, by Chad Crawford.

But my trips to the mountains are always simultaneously joyful and mournful. The story I want to tell is about seeing the effects up close of the North American pine beetle outbreak. It’s devastating the Rocky Mountain forests in the U.S. and Canada and growing exponentially each year. The epidemic is occurring because our winters have not been cold enough to stop the beetles from multiplying. Bark beetles are good for the ecosystem, but not in this amount. The fall colors in our evergreen forests are telling us that global warming is no longer something our kids will face; it’s happening now. And it will accelerate if our forests disappear.

Mr. Watts, it’s not me you have to convince.  There are several millions of beetles in Colorado who must be persuaded the climate is not warming — and they’ll be a tough sell, since a colder climate means death to their future generations.

A greater challenge for you, Mr. Watts:  Not one of those beetles reads your blog.  How will you reach them?

Crawford went to Colorado and saw Fr. Thomas Berry.  Maybe we should buy a ticket to Colorado for Watts.


Alpine Loop? Try Utah’s, gentler, prettier than Colorado’s

August 6, 2008

Utah’s canyons have so many pretty spots. Taking visitors through them I always heard about how no one expected such beauty in the desert. So I was excited to see the headline in Sunday’s Dallas Morning News about taking the Alpine Loop.

Autumn aspens in Utahs Alpine Loop - Wikimedia photo

Autumn aspens in Utah's Alpine Loop - Wikimedia photo

Prettiest drive you can make in a day. Start out in American Fork, head up American Fork Canyon, cross over to the backside of Mt. Timpanogos — you’ll see aspen, pines, fir, some of the prettiest streams you’ve ever seen anywhere. Some years back the Utah Travel Council had a spectacular poster showing the colors in the fall — about five shades each of red, gold and green, aspen and cottonwoods against the balsam and Douglas fir and a few scattered pines. Stop and hike up to Timpanogos Cave National Monument. See where the glacier was on the east side of Timpanogos.

End up passing Robert Redford’s Sundance Ski Resort, and down Provo Canyon (when I skied there it was $6.50 for a full-day pass; have the rates gone up?) — finish up with dinner in a good restaurant in Provo (or drive the 36 miles back to Salt Lake City and have world-class sushi at Takashi).

Alas. The article was about Colorado’s Alpine Loop. Who knew Colorado even had one by that name?

I suspect the Colorado version is less-traveled. The author took a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Utah Travel Council photo of the Alpine Loop showing some of the autumn colors -- not the great shot from the long-ago poster, alas.

Utah Travel Council photo of the Alpine Loop showing some of the autumn colors -- not the great shot from the long-ago poster, alas.

Utah’s Alpine loop is paved the entire way, closed maybe only during a winter of very heavy snow. If you’re just passing through, you can do the drive in three hours or less, easily. If you have a day, grab a picnic, and spend some time stopping to enjoy the mountains.

(Go see Rich Legg’s photos of the east side of Timpanogos, here.)

Some time I’d like to check out the Colorado version. Odds are that I’ll be back in Utah County before then, however, and odds are you’ll be closer to the Utah version than the Colorado version, too.

You know the old saying about “take time to stop and smell the balsam, and ooh and aah at the aspen?” The Alpine Loop is what the aphorist was thinking about. Theodore Roosevelt would have gone there, had he known about it. You know about it now.

Windleys Google map of Utahs Alpine Loop, around Mt. Timpanogos

Windley's Google map of Utah's Alpine Loop, around Mt. Timpanogos


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